According to most definitions, I am a millennial.
I was born in the early 90s and I count myself as one of the last lucky few who had a childhood before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. That day made me grow up as the reality of the events settled into my heart.
Intellectually I understood, but it was the empathy that made me mature that morning.
It happened as I was watching the second building collapse, as my 4th-grade teacher turned on the news and listening to everything that wasn’t being said but was clearly being felt by the adults around me, the news anchors, later, my parents and eventually, the world.
9/11 sparked an awakening of my empathy and changed my way of relating to and understanding the world around me.
My childhood was rather idyllic, all things considered. I was a free and wild child with freckles and braids who climbed trees and read books, who ran like there was wind to be caught and who lived with her bike helmet on all summer long.
Sure, there were world events taking place around me and I listened, but I didn’t feel impacted enough to let them concern me. I had better things to do. I had baseballs to hit, Polly Pockets to play with, Girl Scout cookies to sell and figure skating lessons to attend. I was content to let the adults talk.
That is until an act of terror took place here in the U.S. and a bubble around the country popped, loudly.
This was worthy of my focus and my attention. This was not something I could dismiss, even at the tender age of nine. This was big. This was painful. This was horribly sad and all I wanted to do was to show that I understood, that I could see the pain and wanted to contribute.
That evening my family and I sat around our kitchen table making a few hundred red, white and blue ribbon pins that we took to work and to school the next day. My entire grade got a pin. My brother’s high school got them; my mom’s gift shop handed them out. As a family we found a way to show our love in the form of a cheap trinket made from safety pins and curling ribbon. We found a way to grieve together and to support each other in that grief. Seeing people wear those pins made me realize the strength and need for community.
Although I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I took that message in and stored it away.
After hearing about the shooting in Orlando, my world stopped spinning for a moment as I felt a deep sense of loss and pain wash over me. My stomach plummeted. I stepped out of that emotion before it could swallow me whole, and decided instead to be love. Ever since the news broke I have continually drug myself back from that precipice of pain and sorrow and back toward love.
My deepest wish today is to feel the way I did as a fourth grader observing the world. I want to feel that sense of community, that idea that despite people’s different political or religious beliefs, they are banding together in support. As a child, I saw people literally drop their arguments and come together in support of the families of those who died, the heroes who worked tirelessly and selflessly, those who were rescued and eventually, our country.
I witnessed people uniting.
I wish that we could once again unite within our communities over the lives that were recently so senselessly lost.
I wish that we could, for just a moment, set aside our political agendas and our soapboxes and just really be with each other at this time of loss as we grieve. Community begins at home.
During the wake of a tragedy, I wish that people will make the time for each other. Let’s hug our loved ones a little tighter today. Let’s find a way to make the people we love feel that they matter and eliminate that fear through love.
Be the love.
Spread the love.
Let our eyes speak only love and our mouths utter only words of acceptance and non-judgment.
Let us be the love-bearers.
Author: Molly Murphy
Editors: Ashleigh Hitchcock; Renee Picard